November 27, 2012
Did The US Want To Blow Up The Moon To Scare The Red Out Of The Communists?
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
There's something particularly “Le Voyage dans la lune” about this next story.According to Asian News International and the Associated Press (AP) , The United States of America had planned a mission to blow up the moon in the 1950s. The intention was, apparently, to spook the Soviet Union and have them believe that we could do much worse to them.
According to these reports, this project was called “A Study of Lunar Research Flights,” or “Project A119” for short. The Soviet Union had just launched their first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into outer space. Blowing up the moon would have been the best in one-upmanship.
While a mission such as this sounds foolish enough already, the US Military was prepared to do some heavy thinking and research before they committed to lobbing a bomb towards the sky.
Astronomer Carl Sagan, a doctoral student at the time, worked out some calculations for the project concerning the way dust would react to a nuclear shock. Sagan also calculated what kinds of gasses would result from the obliteration of the moon. Sagan died in 1996, but according to the Daily Mail and the AP, an author of one of his biographies may have already addressed this project.
As the story goes, in 1959 Sagan made mention of this obviously classified project in an academic fellowship application. The government found out about this security breach and removed him from the project.
A missile was set to launch from an undisclosed location, carrying along with it an atom bomb. It had been decided that a hydrogen bomb, while much more powerful, would have been too heavy to make the 238,000 mile trek to the moon. The A-Bomb was set to ignite upon impact with the moon, destroying it and causing quite the spectacle.
Physicist Leonard Reiffel, who is now 85, took an interview with the AP in 2000. In this interview, Reiffel claims America's fledgling space program would have been ready to carry out such a mission by 1959, the same year the Air Force began deploying intercontinental ballistic missiles.
This project was obviously scrapped after the scientists crunching numbers for this mission decided it would be too dangerous to lob a nuclear weapon into the sky, especially if Americans had yet to reach the moon. If the mission were successful, the moon and all its pieces could have become radioactive, another potential danger to the citizens of Earth.
The very notion of blowing up the moon sounds laughable and even more so, fodder for conspiracy theorists. At first blush, it would seem as if there might be an issue with the tides should the moon be destroyed. Taking a more mathematical approach to the argument, Christopher Helman posits that it would take upwards of 600 billion King Bombs (with a yield of 50 megatons of TNT) to completely destroy the moon.
Smaller explosions could damage the moon, of course, but some have suggested that damaging the moon or even blowing it into chunks would essentially leave us with the same moon, only disfigured.
Ah, but perhaps the Soviet Union would have been just as impressed with a disfigured moon as an obliterated one?